The Chilean contemporary art scene through the eyes of an artist

Artist and participant at this year’s Ch.ACO modern art fair shares her experience at the exhibition and her take on Chile’s thriving creative scene.

Maria Karantzi is a European visual artist who has been living and working in Santiago for the past five years. Having recently taken part in Chile’s largest contemporary art fair, Ch.ACO, Karantzi spoke to This is Chile about the exciting opportunities available to artists here in Chile.

Karantzi’s work has been on display at various cultural spaces across the country, such as Galería Tajamar and the Parque Cultural de Valparaíso. Recently one of her projects was exhibited at the Ch.ACO modern art fair for the first time.

The fair, now in its fifth installment, was hosted in the mesmerizing space of Santiago’s vast former train station, the Centro Cultural Estación Mapocho. The grand space, which creates a wonderful contrast between the contemporary nature of the artwork and the historic old station, celebrated opening night on September 26. It was then open to the public for five days.

This year more than 500 works of modern art were on display, with 31 galleries from Latin America, the United States and Europe participating.

One of these galleries was Galería Gabriela Mistral in Santiago, which is where some of Karantzi’s work was on exhibition last year.

Galería Gabriela Mistral belongs to the Chilean Ministry of Culture and my work was chosen in 2012 to be part of a group exhibition there, curated by Rodrigo Quijano,” Karantzi told This is Chile.

“The way it works is that Ch.ACO collects donations of projects that are already on display in various galleries. The Gabriela Mistral gallery was one of their collaborators and I offered to showcase my work at the fair through them,” she continued.

Karatzi had been to Ch.ACO before as a visitor, but this was the first year that her work, an ephemeral installation, was displayed.

“The piece I donated to Ch.ACO this year is a temporary structure that has to be assembled from scratch every time. It’s called Salto Mortale and it’s a hoop of bamboo sticks held together with three apples. It symbolizes the final lethal jump of the acrobats in a circus show, and the life nets used by firemen,” the artist explained.

Combining the fresh perspective of an outsider with several years living in the Chilean capital, Karantzi has developed a keen insight into the strengths of the art scene in the Andean nation.

Artists here are given the opportunity to apply for a state fund from the Culture Ministry called Fondart, which covers anything from production costs to promotion and travel expenses for art-related reasons,” she said. “I think it gives that extra push to undertake those ambitious, large-scale projects artists may not otherwise have the means to.”

Beyond just financial support, Karantzi says her surroundings here in Chile have also helped shape her current artistic style.

“I work a lot based on the materials that fall into my hands, so my work is constantly evolving. For example, I’ve started using cellophane, a material that is frequently used in schools here for handicrafts,” Karantzi revealed.

“In a very indirect way, through the use of this material, I was inspired to start working more with bright colors,” she said.“I think the colorful, Latin American aesthetic that I adopted whilst in Chile is something I wouldn’t have otherwise.”

By Daphne Karnezis